The familiar smell of old typewriter grease and metal surrounded my head as I walked down the four wooden steps into the garage. My husband had decided to crack out the Remington Remette on a lazy Sunday to give it a good cleaning before bringing it into the house. Its skeleton sat on the bench top patiently while my husband meticulously brushed and air blew the dust key by key from its innards. The black wrinkle paint skin rested aside from the working area waiting for its turn.
Every cleaning job is a discovery process. "This little thing moves that. That thing pushes that, and without that piece . . . ahh that's it!" are the familiar mumblings coming from the work bench. This time it was, "Darn it! The space bar isn't working! It was working two seconds ago. OK, de-casing . . . and now it works. OK, so those two things must be . . . and OK, works. Crappy material, cheap, but works like a charm." Then the sounds of typewriter ribbon being cut and rewound replace his voice as silent concentration fills the air once more.
As Richard Polt claims in his well researched blog (2017), this model originally cost $29.75, and only 192,294 were made between 1938 and 1942. The cost can be confirmed in early ads for the Remette such as that shown to the right (Remington-Rand Co, 1938), and others like those shown below (Salem Book, 1938, Sep 29; Salem Book, 1938, Oct 21; Hearst's, 1938; Remington Rand, Inc, 1938; Wittman, 1938; It's new, 1938; Wingert's, 1938; Shepard, 1938; Younker's, 1938; American Writing, 1940). As you can see in the ads below, most shops allowed customers to pay off the typewriter in installments!
Most, if not all, stores provided the carrying case with the cost of the typewriter, and some dealers even offered to sell a typewriter desk with your purchase, or for $1 (Auerbachs, 1938; Remington, 1938). Interestingly enough, during Block's 42nd anniversary, the store offered to exchange your old typewriter for the Remette, for any model except the Oliver Typewriter (Block's, 1938); not sure why the Oliver wasn't accepted.
One creative advertisement shows that the Remette could write in 7 languages (Kay, 1940)! Today, that would mean the machine could translate the words for you. Back then, that could mean anything from changeable typebars, keys with various accents for the 7 languages, or possibly that there were seven languages that used the same alphabet.
There were at least a couple of early variances from the original $29.75 price (Star Drug Co., 1938; Richards, 1940):
Around 1939, a dealer announced a price change up to $32.50 (Popular, 1939):
Unfortunately the El Paso Herald-Post did not appear to have published another ad with the new price, but the below ad does suggest that prices were higher than $29.75 for everyone but students at this particular dealer (Peter's, 1939):
On the contrary in other parts of the country, dealers started selling the Remette for less (Pomeroy's, 1940; McMahan's, 1940):
The first proofs I could find of a Remington Remette selling for higher than $30 were in 1941 (Tollin's, 1941; Boston, 1941). Interestingly enough, this coincided not with the end of the great depression around 1939, when one would expect customers could start affording more expensive typewriters, but with the US entry into World War II, in the winter of 1941.
In the spring of 1942, to assist with the war effort, ration books were printed with stamps, which included the rationing of typewriters based on need (War Rationing, 2016). Luckily for Remington, by August 1942, the need for rations were lifted by the government on some portable typewriter models, which included the Remington Remette (Abraham & Straus, 1942; Sears, 1942; Sears, 1943):
As previously stated, production ended in 1942, and it appears full newspaper ads dropped off sometime in 1943. Today, you can find one of these in the archives of the National Museum of American History (Remington Rem, n.d.).
Back to the garage, after a mineral spirits bath and a thorough cleaning, our own little Remette is working beautifully once again.
Abraham & Straus. (1942, August 30). Now! You can purchase this portable typewriter without a ration order! The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/52705953/?terms=remington+remette
American Writing Machine Co. (1940, December 13). A practical Christmas gift. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/97906908/?terms=remington+remette
Auerbachs. (1938, November 14). Now - The new complete portable typewriter - Remington Remette. The Plain Speaker. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/138213803/?terms=remington+remette
Block's. (1938, October 27). Block's 42nd Anniversary. The Indianapolis News. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/314586805/?terms=remington+remette
Boston Store, The. (1941, December 22). Why not let the Boston Store help you if you are gift p-u-z-z-l-e-d? Arizona Republic. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/117183839/?terms=remington+remette
Hearst's. (1938, October 22). New Remington "Rem-ette" typewriter, with carrying case. Lead Daily Call. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/93609766/?terms=remington+remette
It's new . . . it's complete . . it's low priced! (1938, November 17). The Malvern Leader. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/188083/?terms=remington+remette
Key Jewelry Co. (1940, May 16). Remember the day with a gift from Kay. The Daily Mail. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/22339206/?terms=remington+remette
McMahan's. (1940, September 3). McMahan's furniture fall bargain. Wilmington Daily Press Journal. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/359153187/?terms=remington+remette
Peter's. (1939, May 16). Graduation gift. Battle Creek Enquirer. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/204629820/?terms=remington+remette
Polt, R. (2017). Remington portables. Retrieved from The Classic Typewriter Page: http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/rem-portables.htm#remette
Pomeroy's. (1940, January 3). January Sale. Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/131037455/?terms=remington+remette
Popular Dry Goods Co. (1939, February 2). Announcing price advance in Remington "Remette". El Paso Herald-Post. Retrieved from newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/68591836/?terms=remington+remette
Remington (1938, November 4). Now - The new complete portable typewriter - Remington Remette. The Alton Democrat. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/51522289/?terms=remington+remette
Remington-Rand Company (1938, October 9). New! Remette Portable. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/215374589/?terms=remington+remette
Remington Rand, Inc. (1938, October 25). New Remette Portable Typewriter. Asheville Citizen-Times. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/195502002/?terms=remington+remette
Remington Remette Typewriter (n.d.). Retrieved from The National Museum of American History: http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1091918
Richards. (1940, July 19). It costs less at Richards. The Miami Daily News. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/298489874/?terms=remington+remette
Salem Book Shop, The. (1938, September 29). Buy a new Remington. The Salem News. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/85802387/?terms=remington+remette
Salem Book Shop, The. (1938, October 21). Now, Remington's Newest Portable. The Salem News. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/85802570/?terms=remington+remette
Sears, Roebuck and Co. (1942, September 4). Portable typewriters released! The San Bernardino County Sun. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/49137783/?terms=remington+remette
Sears, Roebuck and Co. (1943, March 10). Sears days. Suburbanite Economist. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/54185885/?terms=remington+remette
Shepard, E. J. "Bud". (1938, November 18). High school college students! The Edwardsville Intelligencer. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/26497866/?terms=remington+remette
Star Drug Co. (1938, November 10). Remington Typewriters. Williamsburg Journal Tribune. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/15124467/?terms=remington+remette
Tollin's. (1941, June 9). Remington "Remette" the gift for the graduate! Delaware County Daily Times. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/54097018/?terms=remington+remette War Rationing. (2016). Retrieved from The 1940's: http://1940s.org/
Wingert's. (1938, November 18). This Christmas, choose the gift the whole family share. The Sentinel. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/345255533/?terms=remington+remette
Wittman. (1938, November 4). Now - The new complete portable typewriter - Remington Remette. Reading Times. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/47782494/?terms=remington+remette
Younker's. (1938, December 3). Imagine their surprise when you give a Rem-Ette Typewriter. The Des Moines Register. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/128451779/?terms=remington+remette